as we drove away from logan square on july 3rd, i was licking an ice cream cone that my friend n gave me on her last shift at the corporate ice cream store. it was probably the best ice cream flavor i have ever had, which means a lot, since i used to work at a crazy ice cream shop in my college town for many years. it was peach ice cream with bits of buttermilk biscuit (something like that?). all my stuff stacked around my big dresser lying in the back of d’s car made the car feel so heavy. we were moving back to st. louis, baby! even though d moved back one year ago. it felt like an official transition for both of us, maybe. i guess i can only speak for myself. i brushed my cheek against blynken’s paw, so she wiped away my tears. i hugged my best friends goodbye, i looked down the hall of my apartment one last time. in my mind, i’m thinking: “you changed me.”
i’m still heading towards a new way of life in a city where i was born, where many of my ancestors were born (an old way of life), and where i have lived but will keep living differently in familiar landscapes. the car ride there held a tension - for awhile, i had no appetite. the act of leaving-it-all makes me sick to my stomach. take that and rub it against the bright orange yolk of the sun hurting the illinois countryside at sunset time, a cow’s pond changing colors. at the rural gas station, i stood outside the car staring at a hood of woods. the lighting made it all look light purple. d explained why the lighting happened like that - something about reflection - but i couldn’t follow his words. it looked like other parts of my memory. it’s all a painting behind glass to me; there in the gallery and then gone once i walk away and remember something else.
last night at the bar patio, my friend m was talking about gathering bits of terracotta architecture to help build parts of the city museum when they worked there. they talked about working there and giving visitors the wrong directions, before there were signs up telling you how to exit certain mazes. if you don’t know what the city museum is when yr reading this, maybe it won’t make sense. back in the day, a purpose of entering the museum was to get lost. everything about this is so st. louis to me — a building filled with treasures and looted shit glued and welded together, a beautiful old shoe factory and warehouse, a place that can’t easily be defined except “you just have to go there.” that magic of the place is gone now, said my friend a. and then on an unrelated note, she started talking about the rave scene in st. louis in the 1990s. we admitted we’ve both researched this and found the same RFT article about the lost history of st. louis raves, rereading it many times. the only way to get ahold of the history is to find the old fliers, look up the DJs, find out their real names, and contact them on their facebook pages, she said.
i want to write about all of this, but i don’t know if all of this wants to be written about. m told me about how before bob cassilly (the creator of the city museum) tragically died, he told m to paint over this goofy mural of him in the skate park of the museum, painted by the stl “eye” graffiti guy. like a last wish. bob hated the portrait. m listened and painted over it after he died, like a metaphor of the erasure of a person. i imagine the face disappearing with each stroke, like a grieving ritual, covered in gray paint like concrete. cement land. [and if m wants me to erase this story, i’ll take it down, too.] i listen to my friends talking to me, leaning against a terracotta wall in st. louis at night, and i am in deep pain for memories. all these histories of groups of people, can they ever be archived and not fully lost? i know i’m susceptible to romanticizing the unknowable, the fantasy gossip of the past. did you know that there’s a cave entrance right there underneath the brewery? did you know there’s a cave with a pool of water that people used to have raves in? it used to be a secret pool for rich people. no, i’ve never heard that before.
they say they could tell the delta variant of the virus arrived in st. louis because of testing the sewer waters. i think about what’s here around us, but we can’t see it visually. it’s underneath. no one wants to talk about it, so that means it’s the most important thing to talk about. everyone says “it’s coming” every time i go out. what does that even mean? i read articles and listen to podcasts about this disease, it feels like for years of my life. what i’ve learned and what i want to know: why won’t the government take responsibility for the damage of relaxed attitudes? maybe there is a certain level of deaths that people are more comfortable to accept. in parts of the country that political divisions have taught us to fucking hate, people are filling hospitals. therefore, it’s easier to blame the people and turn away. fuck that. everything in the world is so terrible, repeating in my body, dunking myself in the anxiety pool. i try to remember what i love. i click out of one screen and click on another to read “junk” by tommy pico. “Junk awaits the next life.” “Junk is discovery.” “Junk is anti-stasis / Ashes to atoms in the sense that Junk wants to become again.”
d and i climbed the rubble-edged steps to the top of the water reservoir to see the fireworks again. we did the same climb three years ago on the 4th, the summer before my world as i knew it disappeared. at the plateau of mosquito grass at night, we were most surprised this time to see so many people. their bodies had been hidden below by a curtain of tall grass. all the way across the reservoir wall, families and young people and babies, watching the fireworks across the city and counties. i realized how quiet it was. in the fourth of july of my childhood, there would be some shitty speaker system by the arch or in some suburb’s field, playing “american” songs. playing bruce springsteen, you know. but here, no, everyone’s mouths were shut in the dark blue. a whole neighborhood of people in lawn chairs on a hill against a city barrier of water purification, not saying a word. some kids were passed out asleep in the dream-place scene, before being carried home.
the fireworks of different displays around st. louis pressed on, crowning the tops of buildings and the arch ahead. they sure do get creative with the designs of the little globs of light every year, huh. flashing in and out, in the shapes of planets with rings or red hearts. this is where we had our first date ha ha, i said to d. in november 2016, we walked to the water tower together, then up the steps, trying to understand the enclosure of gray walls that we passed by everyday but never thought about. the city sky was smokey from the accumulation of fireworks’ expiring, and somehow this felt okay. visually, obscuring, wispy, a city cloaked in cobwebs, a city where the past should always haze the sky. d and i were the only ones clapping and hooting after the finale; a cluster of bangs and smoke and patterns that were supposed to make us feel better about the end.